In the 1970s and 80s, I was raised in a teetotalling household. My parents had friends from different cultures. We were invited into their homes for such treats as Swedish smorgasbord, Aboriginal bear stew and West Indian curries served with flatbread and rice. I couldn’t get enough of these exotic foods. I imagined myself travelling to the countries where these recipes originated.

In my teens, I saved my money to travel, going to Florida (Oh, the joys of a March Break sunburn!) and the United Kingdom. In addition to seeing the sights of England, Scotland and Wales, I fell in love with cream teas and succulent prawns in paper cones fresh from the ocean.

In 1985, I attended Queen’s to pursue my BScH in Geology and Geography. While there, I met my husband. Eleven days after our wedding we moved to a small village in Germany. Our home was across the laneway from a vineyard and down the street from a winery. My fascination with wine had begun. We travelled Europe chasing as many wine and food experiences as we could afford. This included gruyeres and kirsch in Gruyere, wild boar and Riesling in Strasbourg and paella and cava on the Spanish Riviera. We came back to Canada in 1991, penniless but with of 200 bottles of European wine and incredible memories. By this time, I had become a pretty fair cook but had no clue what to serve with the dishes I made. In 1999, I enrolled in Algonquin college for an Introduction to Wine course and the rest was history. I found my calling. I completed my diploma in wine studies.

In 2002, our Family moved to Australia for three and a half years, once again travelling as much as we could. I joined the Slow Food Movement, an international cooking group and began my career in teaching wine classes. While there, I was fortunate to travel to the wine regions of Murray River, the Hunter Valley, the Barossa, Victoria and NSW. I also travelled abroad enjoying lovo and cava in Fiji and street food in Thailand. It was in Thailand I fell in love with dried sweet chili squid after purchasing my first taste from the fishermen drying it on the racks by the ocean.

Upon my return to Canada in 2006, I decided to embark on my WSET studies (Wine and Spirit Education Trust). I achieved my level three, Canadian wine Scholar and Tasting Masterclass Certificates. I continued to teach wine classes while working for Peller then the LCBO. In 2019, I became a Product Consultant with the LCBO, first in Picton then in downtown Kingston. I loved what I did but retired in 2022 in order to travel more. Three weeks of travel a year was not enough for me.

I have been fortunate to have snorkeled in the waters of Mexico, Hawaii and Australia. I have tasted pineapple wine, macadamia nuts and sipped coffee in various tropical locations, sampled tapas and Rioja in Spain, Champagne and oysters in France and visited the souks of Jerusalem.

Join me with Maple Leaf Tours as we explore the world of food and wine together. Try a day in our own backyard, Prince Edward County as we sip Pinot Noir with charcuterie. Perhaps you would like to go further afield and sip your Pinot Noir with Beef Bourguignon in France? Discover with me how food, beverage, history and culture come together in various regions of the world.

I look forward to meeting you and sharing new experiences together. Juanita